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Theology

Whitsun, Adlestrop and Ozymandias: the Gaia challenge

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Sermon for Whitsun preached at St Michael and All Saints, Sunday 4 June 2017

Today I‘m in a poetic mood. I blame it on Whitsun. Did you do Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings at school?

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone….

Which puts me in mind of train journeys:

Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June…

And Adlestrop reminds me of another fabulous name to conjour with, Ozymandias. Picture the scene. A desert. A broken statue. A notice:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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Joy and Prosperity

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Paper given at the University of Aberdeen, 11 May 2017 

Luke 18:22-3 ‘Jesus said, “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the rich young man heard this, he became very sad, because he was extremely wealthy.’

The hypothesis of this Joy and Prosperity event is that Christians have traditionally driven a wedge between them. A bit like the rich young man, there has been a feeling that you can’t have both joy and prosperity: blessed are the poor. Today we are testing that assumption, and my contribution is to look at the question through the lens of the axioms of classical economic thought. Read More

Diogenes Small, RIP

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I discovered how easy it is to get a book dedicated to you when I was about 13. All you have to do is ​gather your sisters, and gang up on ​his best mate at ​your grandfather’s funeral. And hey presto, The Secret of Annex 3, by Colin Dexter, for Elizabeth, Anna and Eve. Read More

Sermon on vocation

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Sermon preached at St Michael and All Saints, Edinburgh, 22 January 2017

I wonder if you know that I went to Finishing School? Lucie Clayton College, to be precise. Joanna Lumley went there in the 60s. When I attended in the 90s, they still had their model of a car, so one could practice getting in and out of it without showing one’s knickers. Just the passenger seat, mind: ladies don’t drive. I learned how to sit for a ‘girls in pearls’ photo, how to glide down a staircase, and how to say No to men: “I’d really rather not.” Read More

Thought for the day

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 I delivered a Thought for the Day for Radio Scotland, the text of which follows, by kind permission.

Good morning. Did you know that today is a Red Letter day? It’s called that, because if you open an old bible, the Saints’ days are marked out in the calendar in red letters. Today is a particularly red Red Letter day, because it’s All Saints Day.

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God and Money

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Sermon preached at Jesus College, Cambridge, Sunday 8 November 2015

My brother once gave me a silver denarius. It’s from the time of Tertullian rather than the Gospels, but it’s an extraordinary thing to hold in your hand. Whenever I see it I hear ‘Render unto Caesar,’ or the grumbling of the workers in the vineyard. Read More